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Feeling Overwhelmed at Work? Learn Why + How to Deal With It

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It’s normal to feel overwhelmed at work during a transitional period, when preparing for an important presentation, or as a deadline approaches.

We don’t pay attention to this feeling as long as it ends with its main stressor.

However, when this constant feeling of stress becomes a part of our daily routine, then it’s time to address the elephant in the room.

Feeling overwhelmed at work all of the time isn’t something you should tolerate.

It can have a negative impact on both your mental and physical health.

In this article, I’ll discuss the signs and causes of being overwhelmed at the workplace.

I’ll also share some effective strategies on how to deal with it, so let’s get started!

What Does Feeling Overwhelmed at Work Mean?

Feeling overwhelmed at work manifests as a loss of control in all aspects.

To explain, stress begins to creep in and you become swamped by negative emotions.

The work you’re required to complete starts to resemble this summit that you won’t be able to reach any time soon.

With so little control over how you feel and what you do, chaos ensues in your mind, which can even sometimes have a physical impact.

The thing about being overwhelmed at work is that it can happen in a variety of contexts.

For example, a salesperson may become overwhelmed if he doesn’t meet his monthly target.

At the same time, a journalist’s workload may feel unmanageable due to constant tight deadlines.

It’s no surprise that 80% of workers in the United States experience stress at work.

The point is that feeling overwhelmed is something that everyone goes through.

What matters is that we understand what triggers it and how to deal with it; we’ll get to that in a moment.

Signs You’re Overwhelmed at Work

It’s critical that you start by defining whether you’re feeling overwhelmed due to your job or another stressor.

Here are five major indicators that can help you determine if work is the culprit of your stress:

1. Feeling Helpless

The more unmanageable your work, the more helpless you’ll feel.

Instead of believing that what you’re doing matters and contributes to the bigger picture, you begin to doubt your abilities.

This feeling prevents you from accomplishing anything.

That’s why demotivation will eventually set in; as humans, we lose motivation when we don’t see progress in what we do.

2. Feeling Constantly a Step Behind

You always feel that your work isn’t good enough, no matter what you do or how much effort you put into it.

What’s more, even though you’ve been working hard recently, you always seem to miss a part of a task or a deadline.

This can result in a strong sense of being overwhelmed.

You’re perplexed: how can I be working so hard and still feel like I’m falling behind?

3. Work Is Always on Your Mind

One of the key signs of being overwhelmed because of your job is work-related rumination.

This happens when your thoughts, even in your spare time, are directed toward work-related issues.

These thoughts tend to keep recurring in your mind, and it becomes quite difficult to control them.

4. Having Trouble Sleeping

Having trouble falling asleep or having disturbing dreams about your job that disrupt your sleep cycle could be signs that your job is causing you stress.

In fact, stress is one of the leading causes of chronic insomnia.

5. Being Constantly Exhausted

Your body will begin to exhibit tell-tale signs that it’s in distress.

You’ll feel exhausted most of the time, both mentally and physically.

For example, your concentration levels will become lower than usual.

As time goes on, this can have an impact on your health, causing headaches, upset stomach, dizziness, and other symptoms.

Why Do You Feel Overwhelmed at Work?

Recognizing the root causes of the feeling is the first step toward properly addressing it.

here are usually five common causes for feeling overwhelmed at work:

1. Having Several Assignments

Having a lot of work to do but not enough time to finish it can be mentally draining.

Even if you consider yourself to be a great multitasker, your multitasking abilities will eventually fail you.

When you continue to juggle multiple tasks at the same time, you’re more likely to experience mental blocks and/or feelings of anxiety.

2. Having Tight Deadlines

Working with tight deadlines usually shifts our focus from doing quality work to pacing ourselves to finish it.

This, in turn, makes work less meaningful and leads straight to burnout.

Matter of fact, according to a CareerCast survey, deadlines are the primary cause of workplace stress.

3. Lack of Work-Life Balance

Feeling out of control at work is one thing, but feeling out of control in your personal life is where the real trouble begins.

When you’re unable to spend time with family and friends, you’re automatically put under added pressure.

All of the missed events and outings can strain your relationships as well as your mental health.

4. Not Enough Help or Resources

It’s vital that you find help at work whenever you need it.

Getting assistance from your bosses or coworkers simply enhances your sense of belonging.

Plus, working in a supportive environment boosts motivation and openness to do better.

Meanwhile, constantly feeling lost with no guidance has the opposite effect.

5. Not Enough Feedback From Supervisors

You might lose your sense of direction when you don’t know how your work is perceived.

Positive feedback makes employees feel valued and thus improves their performance.

Constructive feedback, a.k.a negative feedback, assists them in recognizing and correcting their flaws.

Statistically speaking, 85% of employees take more initiative when they receive feedback at work.

Lack of feedback, on the other hand, can inhibit positive behaviors while encouraging negative ones.

How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed at Work

When approaching the feeling of being overwhelmed, you may feel as if there’s no clear direction on where to begin; after all, this feeling can be a little messy.

So far, the most effective technique for me and many others has been something quite similar to the compound effect.

For context, the compound effect is the process of achieving big results from little actions.

What sort of minor actions? Take a look:

1. Identify and Understand Your Triggers

First things first, identify the action that causes the emotion.

That’ll lay the groundwork for how you’ll tackle this problem.

For example, personally, I’ve noticed a pattern where whenever I don’t make time for myself throughout the day, overwhelming begins to seep in.

Whereas I have a friend who’s somewhat a workaholic, he doesn’t seem to mind the imbalance.

It’s not getting feedback from his superiors that causes him to feel overwhelmed; it’s like his fuel.

As you can see, both triggers will dictate a different course of action for dealing with overwhelm.

2. Set Boundaries

I know, in a time when our worth is linked to our productivity, it can be difficult to show any signs of inefficiency.

Thus, we go above and beyond in our jobs even if it means jeopardizing our relationships or mental health.

What you must understand is that your worth is independent of everything else.

Don’t feel guilty about setting boundaries on what you will and won’t do.

The simple act of saying I won’t be able to work on the weekend or overtime will take minutes but have a long-term impact.

3. Delegate and Ask For Help

Interestingly, neuroscience and psychology research has revealed that some social threats activate the same brain regions as physical pain.

Uncertainty and the risk of rejection were two of these threats.

So, while approaching someone for assistance may be uncomfortable, it’s necessary.

You’d be surprised at how many of your coworkers are willing to help you versus those who aren’t.

It’s perfectly acceptable to seek advice from your superiors whenever necessary.

It’s even advised that you inform your boss if you’re suffering from work-related stress.

The more you unload the difficulties of your job and receive guidance through it, the more you’ll feel at ease.

4. Take Care of Yourself

Think of your body and brain to be a rubber band. When it’s stretched and then released, it returns to its original state.

However, if we continue to stretch it, it’ll eventually tear.

Make time in your schedule to participate in some of your favorite activities or to spend quality time with loved ones.

This type of “release” is what will condition your body and mind to continue working.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Normal to Feel Overwhelmed at Work All the Time?

Yes, you can feel overwhelmed all the time if you work a job that’s constantly demanding.

Perhaps it’s because there’s always a staff shortage, managers are unappreciative of hard work, and so on.

What Is the Feeling of being Overwhelmed a Symptom Of?

Feeling overwhelmed is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety.

It can, however, be linked to other mental health conditions such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), etc.

Wrapping Up

Feeling overwhelmed at work isn’t something you should put up with.

Fortunately, there are numerous actions you can take to overcome it, but it all starts with you addressing the issue.

If at all possible, incorporate therapy into the process.

This could help you get to the root of the problem faster.

It could also aid in developing more effective coping mechanisms for dealing with overwhelm.

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